Friday, August 7, 2015

Myths on touring with Brompton


You cannot climb mountains with a Brompton

I was the first to believe this. When I first decided to use a Brompton Bicycle for touring I was extremely careful in choosing a route that wouldn't entail much climbing. Cycling the US Pacific coast on a couple of occasions I limited my efforts to uphills that never took me over 1000 metres and grades that never exceeded 6%. The reliability and total fun of touring with this bike brought me this year to do something a little more daring, cycling in the canadian Rockies and in the end I was able to tackle pretty hard climbs that I would be hard pushed to climb on any other bike I could chose. I cycled along the Icefield Parkway both ways,  climbing cols over 2000 metres and more challenging even,  Duffey Lake Road from Lillooet to Pemberton in British Columbia ascending 1500 meters often as steep as climbs in the european Alps. All it took were a few minutes pushing the bike where the road was just too steep but these were out of well over two hours of climbing time. I am by no means a strong cyclist, I don't necessarily train before my tours. I get fit as days go by so a sensible first consideration is to not plan the steepest of climbs on your first few days when your body needs to get conditioned to the effort needed to cycle long distances.
 I reached the conclusion that it is indeed possible to climb mountains on a loaded Brompton and the limitation are not that much different from those you have to consider when touring on a heavy loaded bike.
On a Brompton you can chose ( and you should! ) the six reduced gearing option and if this is not enough to get you going, walking is more efficient! On my softest gear while climbing the most difficult sections on Duffey Lake I would cruise at  5 or 6 kmh just above walking speed. Should I need lower gearing I would be better off pushing the bike up when I needed.
I believe this is the same on any bike loaded for touring; you end up using the softest gear and should you go below the five kilometres threshold it hardly makes sense pedalling and it becomes easier pushing the bike to get over the toughest parts. Of course it goes without saying that tourers on touring bikes or mountain bikes will in the end carry much more weight than you do and I often found that to the contrary I was faster while climbing than they were!

You can't ride too far with a Brompton

Another myths I used to believe. Ideally a day ride on my tour will not be so long that I am not able to stop frequently, eat loads and take all the beautiful pictures and videos and still make it to a campsite by 4pm. Talking about distance on average I find that 70 or 80 kilometres is an ideal distance.
Of course sometime we have constraint on times or it is necessary to ride longer to get from point A to B, so what then?
Surprisingly I found that covering long distances on a Brompton is not impossible either. On a recent tour where I had to cover longer distances than I would have liked I completed several days where in the end my speedometer was just short of 130 kilometres. Indeed this is on par with the longest distances I ever covered on tours with my mountain bike when I was twenty years younger too!

4 comments:

  1. I concur.

    For climbing mountains I swapped the chainring from a 44 tooth (6 gear Brompton with the -12%) to a 39 tooth chainring. Makes climbing easier ;)

    I did 101 km (my longest ride yet...) between lunch and dinner(around six hours of riding with two short breaks). Riding time was exactly as long as google maps had predicted, which means it was as fast as my regular bicycle.

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  2. This is one of the most incredible blogs Ive read in a very long time. The amount of information in here is stunning. Your blog is great for anyone who wants to understand this subject more.
    Brompton Bicycles

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much Stewart. Really appreciated.

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